2 April 2020
There have been quite a few employee/employer questions. Some finally have some answers. For more click here.
Q. If my employer is open, but furloughs me on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?
No. If your employer furloughs you because it does not have enough work or business for you, you are not entitled to then take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.
Q. If my employer closes my work-site on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), but tells me that it will reopen at some time in the future, can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?
No, not while your work-site is closed. If your employer closes your work-site, even for a short period of time, you are not entitled to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your work-site for lack of business or because it was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State, or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx. If your employer reopens and you resume work, you would then be eligible for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave as warranted.
27 March 2020
Many businesses have been asking what they can do to get the necessary funds they need to keep their businesses in operation. Many have also asked if they should "lay off" all of their employees, or if they have other potential options.
The purpose of this post is to provide you with a few potential options in dealing with the above issues:
SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans
As the coronavirus pandemic prompts disaster declarations at the state and county level, small businesses and not-for-profits in those areas can apply online for low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
An SBA Section 7(b) Economic Injury Disaster Loan provides up to $2 million to help business with fewer than 500 employees pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that can’t be paid due to the loss of revenue caused by a declared disaster. The loans cannot be used to cover lost profits.
The interest rates for the loans are 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for not-for-profits. The SBA determines terms on a case-by-case basis, based on each borrower’s capacity for making monthly loan repayments. The maximum loan term is 30 years.
The loans also offer a one-year deferment on payments. This means that the first payment isn’t due until a year after the official date of the loan. However, interest starts accruing on the loan the moment the funds are disbursed.
Please click this link to learn more and apply SBA Loan Application
Employee Related Issues
Many clients have also asked what their options are with employees besides laying them off. The IRS is coming our with various tax credits to assist with the payment of workers impacted by the Corona Virus.
The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. We have been told that this page will be updated as new information is available. Please click this link to learn about these programs IRS Employee Wage Programs
Looming Tax Return Deadlines
At this point in time the IRS has also extended the due date of all income tax returns, and tax payments due on April 15, 2020 until July 15, 2020.
We hope that you follow the recommendations of health officials and stay safe through this unsettling time.
Questions? Contact NEHPBA.
Info from Napoleon/Christopher R. Lambert & Associates
18 March 2020
This was just sent out from HPBA:
The health and safety of HPBExpo attendees and exhibitors are of primary importance to us every year, and more so this year. We have been continuously monitoring the COVID-19 situation before, during and since HPBExpo in New Orleans.
We recently learned that there are presumptive cases of COVID-19 involving two members of an HPBExpo exhibitor's staff who were present at the Expo. Out of an abundance of caution, we want to share this information with you so you can take necessary steps to monitor your health and well-being.
We currently do not know whether these individuals had symptoms at the Expo or whether they attended during the COVID-19 incubation period. We are in contact with the relevant health authorities to provide them with this information and to obtain further guidance.
These are challenging and unprecedented times for our community. HPBA will continue to share updated information at HPBExpo.com, we encourage you to check this link for any updates. Our thoughts are with those affected and we wish them a full recovery.
If you have flu-like symptoms, reach out to your medical provider for advice on next steps. Please refer to the following CDC recommendations [mmsend34.com] for protecting yourself and others.
17 March 2020
HPBA is aware of the impact of COVID-19 closures on retailers, especially those who may still have Step 1 products in stock. As businesses limit operating hours, HPBA will be reaching out to Congress to urge relief due to these exceptional circumstances. It may be possible to get additional time for product sell-through, but we need your immediate help in order to do so.
What You Need to Do
Send an email to Rachel Feinstein (Feinstein@hpba.org) by 3:00 pm EDT Thursday, March 19 with the following information:
Unless and until any extension is passed, the legal deadline remains May 15, 2020. If you have any question, feel free to contact Northeast HPBA or HPBA.
5 March 2020Nonprofit responds to 66th disaster since 2011
Relief is making its way to Nashville, Tennessee, in the form of food following deadly tornadoes that struck the state early Tuesday.
Team members from Midwest-based Operation BBQ Relief arrived in Nashville on Wednesday to feed thousands of people affected by the storm.
“As bad as they look, it’s nowhere close to really as bad as it is," Stan Hays, Operation BBQ Relief co-founder, said.
Looking at footage of the aftermath, Hays said he knew volunteers were needed.
“As long as this tornado was on the ground and the number of communities that it affected, the more we started to hear, the more we knew there was going to be a need,” Hays said. “We just didn’t know how much."
More than 20 people have died as a result of the tornadoes, which spanned four counties.
Volunteers set up shop at Nissan Stadium and began serving a community that Hays told 41 Action News looked all too familiar. Responding to the devastation in Nashville marked the organization’s 66th disaster since 2011.
The 2011 tornado that destroyed most of Joplin is what prompted a group of barbecue enthusiasts and competitors turned their hobby into a helpful effort, according to Hays.
“What was going to be three to four days and a few thousand meals turned into 11 days and 120,000 meals from a parking lot," Hays said.
Operation BBQ Relief drove several smokers to Nashville that can cook enough pork to make 2,000 pulled pork sandwiches at one time. Hays said it helps in their efforts to serve more than 20,000 meals a day.
“It also does a little bit more than just, you know, nurses the body, it nurses the soul as well as we’re doing that," Hays said.
Crews plan to be in the Nashville area for seven days, Hays said, but will monitor the situation on the ground and adjust as needed.
Source: kshb.com/image from Hearth & Home
20 February 2020
Enjoy Cost Savings Benefits on insurance, computers, shipping, credit card processing, business coaching, technical training, marketing, and advertising, saving members hundreds of dollars each year.
Want to renew your NEHPBA membership? Click here.
14 February 2020
John Crouch, HPBA Government Affairs, sent me this article and I found it interesting. It's long, but I've highlighted the sections that I found the most pertinent and interesting. Can common sense prevail? We'll see....
Washington — State regulators were served a strong dose of skepticism Sunday about municipal bans on natural gas hookups in new buildings from parties concerned about the consumer costs and the wisdom of setting key energy policies outside the state utility regulation construct.
Depending on how widespread it becomes, the wave of bans, as well as other incentives for building electrification, could have broad implications for the residential fuel mix and the future of gas distribution infrastructure and demand.
"My experience has been that the city councils aren't necessarily the source of balanced information, just and reasonable cost estimates, all the things that are part of the utility regulatory framework that makes determinations on the capital infrastructure investments," said Timothy Simon, a former California Public Utility Commission member.
Simon, who currently represents several local distribution companies, was among panelists urging caution about the bans during a staff gas subcommittee meeting at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners winter policy summit.
While residential energy use makes up only 7% of California's carbon dioxide emissions, "it's gaining the ire and the attack of city councils across my great state," he said. The "real culprit" in his view is transportation, which makes up 41% of CO2 emissions and is concentrated around big rig diesel trucks. Those trucks "generally don't run through Bel Air and Beverly Hills, he said. "They generally are running by black and brown communities that are in industrial sections near ports of entry and other areas."
Beginning with a ban in Berkeley, California, municipal gas bans have spread through California and appeared in the Boston area and Washington state.
Bill Malcolm, senior legislative representative from AARP, said that while his group does not favor one type of fuel over another, it has raised questions in several states about rate impacts for low and moderate income residents.
"I just checked the numbers and natural gas is now at $1.85/MMBtu, and just to put that in perspective, in 2012 it was actually $12/MMBtu," he said. "So where is the new power for the new load going to come from?" he said.
In Connecticut, for instance, AARP filed comments questioning whether incentives to install electric heat pumps over gas furnaces would benefit ratepayers and whether it would drive up peak power demand, he noted.
What role state regulators will play in the debate is "the multi-billion question that will most likely be settled by the courts," said Andreas Thanos, a Massachusetts regulator who chairs the NARUC gas staff subcommittee, when reached by email.
While PUCs grant the franchise allowing an LDC to go into a town or city, municipalities are using their bylaws to implement the bans. "So the PUCs will most likely not weigh in on the issue until the courts decide," he said.
Dianne Solomon, a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities commissioner, said she also sees a movement by states to empower their departments of environmental protection to "get into this space, take it out of the hands of the utility regulators and suggest that all projects going forward would have to have some environmental impact."
Several state regulators suggested green groups have had the more effective messaging thus far.
"I have heard a lot from the environmental advocates, Sierra Club and what have you, saying why we should have the natural gas bans," said Greer Gillis, a member of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, adding it was important to get the views aired in the room out into the mainstream.
Judith Schwartz, a former utility commissioner from Palo Alto, where a municipal "reach code" encouraging all electric construction was adopted, contended "while the intentions are good, the reality of what [gas bans] are doing is minimal." During the winter "you have natural gas and imports making up the shortfall of every single hour of the day," she said.
Still, speaking from the audience, David Kolata with the Citizens Utility Board of Illinois, said he believed the issue was more complicated than the dialogue Sunday suggested.
"It's pretty clear that in every blue state, we're going to need to deliver a plan" that keeps the increase in temperatures due to climate change under 2 degrees Celsius, he said, with the modeling showing the need to decarbonize electricity, heating and transportation.
"Given that, how do we think about this from a consumer advocate point of view, where money spent on natural gas right now and natural gas infrastructure could very well be stranded?" he said.
5 February 2020
We are seeing an increasing number of jurisdictions seriously talking about converting their communities to all-electric homes. These efforts are failing to consider key issues.
1. Many communities reference solar energy as a viable option for homes without discussing the challenges. Solar electricity generation is great during the day, but without widespread electrical storage, taking advantage of that electricity is difficult. We don’t often see mention of the associated cost of not just the solar panels, but also necessary electrical storage.
There must be a discussion about the demand curve of electricity. This curve shows the modest demand for electricity in the day (people getting ready in the morning), the demand drop-off during the middle of the day (people are away from home, but solar is plentiful, weather permitting), and then the steep ramp-up in electricity demand in the evening (people return home, preparing meals, heating homes, etc.). The fluctuations of the demand curve will become steeper with a higher demand for electricity brought on by all-electric homes. Storage options will help mitigate this demand, but they are expensive, and history has shown that most people who opt for solar do not add storage, usually due to high costs.
Solar will be limited in its practicality depending on location and climate. In sunnier areas with clear lines of sight, solar is a good option for supplementing energy. In snow country, poor weather, or limited visibility (trees, nearby buildings, etc.), solar does not produce at optimal levels, if at all.
2. Electricity is not known for its resiliency during winter storms or other emergency situations. Without storage, if the power goes out, you have no power to heat, cook, or bathe if you depend on grid electricity, which the vast majority of consumers do. With natural gas or propane, you have much better resiliency for an energy source. Even if the gas-burning central furnace won’t run during a power outage because it relies on electricity to run the fan, your gas fireplaces, gas stovetops, and gas hot water heaters all continue to operate.
3. Related to the last point, we must think about the expected increased electrical rate costs. If everyone moves to a single fuel source, the demand is higher, which in-turn will very likely increase the cost. The electricity generated during the day via solar has minor value, as electricity is not in demand then. With most utilities having moved, or moving, to a Time Of Use (TOU) billing model for electricity, the highest energy in demand (during the evening) will also be the most expensive.
4. One of the primary reasons to move to all-electric homes is to lower carbon dioxide emissions. However, unless the electricity is coming directly from a renewable resource (solar panels, wind, hydro, etc.), it will be coming from a central power plant. Central power plants have very low efficiency rates – far lower than most residential furnaces or room heaters. On average, the highest efficiency rate for a natural gas-burning power plant is about 43%, with coal, oil, and nuclear efficiencies being even lower (31-33%)1. When you consider that residential gas-burning furnaces operate at a minimum of 80-82% efficiency, and then only as needed, it’s clear that fewer emissions are created from homes heated with natural gas than all-electric homes which draw from central power plants.
There is a bias evident in this effort to promote electrification. We’ve seen articles that say that 45% of carbon dioxide emissions are from electricity and heat in Canada, but if you look closer at the data, we find that only 6% is from homes using natural gas. The rest is from industrial, manufacturing, municipal and commercial. These sources will certainly be affected by changing to electrification, but the impact will be seen and felt differently. Focusing on converting homes to all-electric is an expensive proposition for the homeowner and not necessarily the best choice for the environment.
Studies show that electrification will cause price increases. It could be the increased cost to buy a new home due to new technologies will drive even more people out of the homebuyer market with five-figure increases. But electrification will also raise the cost for an average household by between $750 and $910 per year, just based on normal use of electricity from the grid.
Consumers deserve to be able to make their own decisions on how they heat their homes and cook their meals. Electrification not only removes that consumer choice, but also could shut the door to new and promising technological advances like renewable natural gas.
It’s time for everyone to understand the full cost of electrification.
For more information, contact NEHPBA.
23 January 2020
Here is an update on Net Zero/Gas Ban Events around New England and New York. Is Northeast HPBA missing anything? Is there anything we don't know about that is happening in your area that we need to know? Contact us!
There are 240 towns out of 311 towns in MA considering this stretch code.
Right now NEHPBA is Networking with: Plumbers Union, VP of Government Affairs and VP of Communications with National Grid, Community Relations Specialist at Eversource, Director at Eversource, President of the Union for Eversource, New England Gas Workers Alliance, PROGANE (Propane Gas of New England), Regional AGA affiliate, Massachusetts Chimney Sweeps, BBRS, numerous building inspectors in MA, NAIOP, National Grid in RI.
If there are any introductions you can make in your area, no matter how big or small, please introduce me via email or phone. Contact NEHPBA with any questions. Like our Facebook page to stay up-to-date!
Image: Sen Markey Green New Deal Town Hall
16 January 2020
New legislation was recently signed into law by President Trump that may affect some of our NEHPBA/HPBA members.
What is it? The Portable Certification of Spouses (PCS) Act
Why? Over 34 percent of military spouses work in fields that require a state license in order to practice. These spouses are often required to recertify and pay to recertify this license every time they move between states with their spouse. Re-certification has become too long, expensive, detrimental to the careers of spouses, and prohibitive financially to military families who could benefit from two household incomes instead of one.
What does it do? The law directs the Secretary of Defense to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Council of State Governments to assist with funding of the development of interstate compacts on licensed occupations in order to alleviate the burden associated with relicensing in such an occupation by spouse of a members of the armed forces in connection with a permanent change of duty station of members to another state.
Who does it affect? Spouses of military personnel who have an occupational license whose spouse is relocated due to a permanent change of duty station to another state.
Full Bill Text: Click here
Senator Tom Cotton's Press Release: Click here
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